Rooks Show No Nerves as First Game Looms

MIAMI – Three Boston Celtics will reach their dream Tuesday night when they participate in their very first NBA basketball game.

The reality has finally set in for Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph since being drafted by the Celtics back on June 28: they have reached their ultimate personal goal of becoming an NBA player.

They’ve played in preseason games and practiced with the team for months, but Tuesday night will be different. This is Opening Night. Against the champs. In Miami. On TNT. This is the brightest the lights can possibly be until the NBA Finals arrive in June.

Kris Joseph, Fab Melo, Jared Sullinger

Kris Joseph, Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger will be a part of their first regular season NBA game tonight.
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images

One would think that these circumstances would have this trio in a state of anxiety, but all indications are that the Celtics have drafted rookies who have ice in their veins.

“Really, right now, I’m calm at this point,” Kris Joseph said before the team’s shootaround Tuesday morning. “But I’m really excited. I’m excited that the season is here.”

Joseph also made it clear that he’s not the only Celtics player who’s feeling a little less anxious than one might expect.

“Everyone’s really calm,” he said of his teammates. “Everyone’s levels are really low right now. We’re just looking forward to the game.”

Jared Sullinger’s anxiety levels might not be moving at all. His confidence level and performance on the court during the preseason were indicative of a longtime NBA player. He simply doesn’t look like a rookie. As he said on Monday, on the eve of his first true professional game, he doesn’t feel like a rookie, either.

“When you’ve got KG always constantly talking to you, it’s kind of hard to feel like a rookie, because you should understand the game by now,” Sullinger said.

These rookies know the nuances of basketball and they also know how to carry themselves like true professionals. They refuse to look at tonight’s game as a life-changing moment. Instead, they have the mindset of seasoned vets. The rooks want nothing less than a victory.

“We want to win,” Sullinger said bluntly. “They’ve beat it into our heads that the Eastern Conference Finals, Game 7, [the Celtics] felt like they kind of gave up the game. So we constantly watch film of it. We understand that Miami is the team to beat.”

The Celtics will need to overcome quite a show in order to grab a victory tonight. The Heat are known for their elaborate pregames, with smoke, fire, loud music and boisterous PA announcers. Their pregame show will be on steroids tonight, as the Heat will be receiving their championship rings.

Sullinger and Joseph, speaking by themselves on separate days, slapped aside the notion that Miami’s pregame show will distract the Celtics tonight.

Sullinger said on Monday that he has dealt with similar pregames in the past, be it on a slightly smaller level. After all, he played at Ohio State and participated in the Final Four this past NCAA season. His teammates in Boston have all been a part of these things at one point of their careers as well.

Joseph, meanwhile, told Celtics.com on Tuesday that pregame shows don’t win basketball games. To him, it’s all about when the ball goes up in the air.

“That’s something that won’t affect any of us, because at the end of the day that smoke and all that can’t help them win the game,” Joseph said. “Once all that is over, it’s back to four quarters of basketball. That’s what we’ve been prepping for for the last month or so.”

The Celtics have been preparing for a big basketball game for quite some time, and their rookies have been prepping for this moment for their entire lives. Yet somehow, on the day their dream will officially become a reality, this trio of rookies is calm, cool and collected. They have ice in their veins, and that’s what you need on nights like this.